PECFN planning to protest Bill 23 Thursday

Photo by S. Smith/pecfieldnaturalists.org

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists are expected to be joined by other local environmental organizations today from 11 a.m. To 1 p.m. at Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith’s constituency office in Rossmore to protest the Ford Government’s Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act.

PECFN is urging members of the public are urged to join the protest. In their backgrounder, Ontario Nature states, “Bill 23 and the accompanying policy changes spell disaster for the farmland and natural areas that sustain us. It is environmental deregulation writ large, premised on the faulty assumptions that there should be no limits to sprawl.… If passed, these changes will set land use planning back decades and will stymie societal efforts to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss through enlightened environmental planning and decision-making.”

Photo by S. Smith/pecfieldnaturalists.org

In short, Bill 23 would remove the public’s right to appeal development decisions and would allow the Province to amend Official Plans.

“In the County, ours was developed in conjunction with local environmental groups, to protect natural core areas. Bill 23 also proposes removing the protection of farmland and natural heritage from the Provincial Policy Statement. Ramifications for water tables are equally dire. The Bill would strip the power of Conservation Authorities to protect the watershed in their area,” PECFN’s Gerry Jenkinson said.

In terms of the local region, PECFN said Bill 23 is particularly devastating for Provincially Significant Wetlands. Proposed changes to scoring in the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System would remove protections from 99 of 100 PSWs, resulting in encroaching development and habitat loss for many species, including species at risk.

Jenkinson said the proposed Offsetting System would allow developers to destroy wetlands, woodlands, and other wildlife habitats as long and they pay into a fund.

“Whatever the aims of this fund, wetlands evolve over many decades. They are irreplaceable,” she added. As well as being essential for preserving biodiversity, wetlands provide many other important benefits that directly impact the local population. All wetlands – small and large – provide critically important ecological benefits. They help mitigate drought by capturing surface water and directing it to the water table. When water table levels are low, wells dry up faster and rural residents need to buy more water from local providers. Wetlands also reduce the damaging effects of flooding. Mature trees that grow in the headwaters of PSWs absorb a massive amount of water, slowing down its flow during periods of flood, mitigating the damage to roads, buildings and other infrastructure, and preventing erosion.

“As the Climate Emergency increases in intensity, environmental protections need more strength, not less. We will likely experience more persistent droughts and more flooding,” said Jenkinson. “We need our natural heritage and wetlands more than ever. Please protest with us on November 24.”

-Staff